To maintain a classic car in tip-top condition so that it looks great and holds its value, the owner has to lavish a lot of care on it. Keeping the engine in good condition is equally important as maintaining the bodywork and the interior. If you settle into a routine and regularly polish the paintwork and interior trim, add to that regular engine checks and make small adjustments to tyre pressure, oil pressure and the timing as required, you can not only keep your classic car in top driving condition but also looking like new and slowing the effects of car depreciation down, perhaps even adding value to your motor over time.
If the owner uses the classic car almost every day, it will be open to the elements and will therefore need extra protection. The summer sun’s ultra-violet light attacks paint work; in winter the additional road salt and spray from gritting trucks and regular rain storms rot and corrode the metal work.
In spite of the expense of motoring it’s possible, without great expense, to carry out some preventive measures that will keep your classic car in excellent condition. Before you put your car into storage you should make sure that each of a large range of things has been done. Deterioration will occur if a classic car is put into storage without proper preparation.
Whether you own a classic car, classic pickup van or even a used minibus from decades past you must give the vehicle a good detailing before you put it in storage. Total and complete cleanliness is vital. All salt and road grime must be washed from the undercarriage and all the body parts.You must make sure that there is no trace of moisture in or on the car before you wrap it up for winter storage. Any cover that you use should be a high quality soft fibred one, not a cheap one with coarse fibres. If you can, you should store your classic car in a shady and dust free environment.
For short periods of storage your classic car will benefit by the complete draining of the cooling system and refilling with pure antifreeze. The entire system should be drained and the radiator cap removed if you intend storing your car for a long time; this allows air to circulate around the cooling system. In addition to this you should change the brake fluid, oil, and oil filter before storing the vehicle.
During the washing process make sure you look for any scratches or chips in the paint finish. You can prevent metal corrosion by having any spots, chips or scratches touched up with a paint pen prior to putting your car into storage. By using primer first you will ensure that the new paint sticks and that the ultimate level is correct. In order to get the paint that matches your vehicle’s colour, you will have to buy it from the manufacturer. If you are looking for a more professional touch, have a look at purchasing SMART for your car, it is a form of additional car insurance which is an absolute must for long term car owners. This acronym stands for Small Accident Repair Technology.
You will also want to do something with the tyres because the rubber will actually perish if they are left inflated with the vehicle’s full weight on them. You can either remove the wheels completely or put the car on axle stands and let the air out of the tyres at the same time. This will make the car less likely to be stolen as well as relieving the suspension system.
Never put a car into storage with the battery connected. After removing the battery and cleaning its terminals you must choose how best to maintain it. For the many older unsealed batteries that leak, cleaning the terminals is best carried out with a bicarbonate of soda and water solution. If you intend storing your car only for a short time, as often happens in severe climates, putting your battery on trickle charge is a good idea. For car owners who either drive very infrequently or have classic cars that can stand unused for many months at a time, flat batteries are a thing these owners know only too well. A dead battery is frustrating; a replacement battery is expensive.
Keeping the Battery Charged Up
The short term solution is to keep the battery topped up with a trickle charger. A trickle charger charges a car battery at approximately the same rate as it is discharging, so if the car you’re storing is used once a month for example this is a great option. The trickle charger’s disadvantage is that it charges continuously irrespective of the state of charge of the battery. It therefore needs to be connected and disconnected periodically or it will eventually boil your battery and permanently damage it. A float charger is worth considering for a long term solution. No harm will be done to the battery if the float charger is left connected indefinitely. With modern classics a float charger will help the owner ensure that immobilisers or car alarm systems won’t run it down while the car sits under covers for months at a time. There is a huge choice of car chargers on the market in both the UK and America so buying the right one won’t be difficult. Make sure that the charging battery is in a well ventilated position. Constricting the airflow around a car battery is dangerous and could cause a fire!
You will want to replace all filters with new ones and remove the spark plugs. By removing the spark plugs you help prevent moisture being trapped in the cylinder head potentially causing corrosion. The corrosion is caused by the fact that petrol has a high water content. You will want to grease over all areas, including points, door locks, door boot hinges and the like. At least once a month you should turn the engine over using a spanner. Do this by using the flywheel bolt. This keeps the pistons, valves and tappets moving freely preventing them from seizing in the engine when left standing for long periods of time.
If you use your classic car regularly, you will need to give it concomitant attention. Keep the interior and exterior trim polished which not only keeps it clean but also prevents the polished areas from cracking. All the components of the exterior trim will be damaged by the sun’s UV radiation if the trim is not kept clean and polished.
Your classic car should be cleaned only with microfibre or other cloths designed specifically for use on expensive luxury cars. Cotton cloth, because it’s made from real cotton, is softer than cheap cloth (normally made from nylon and polyester) which can leave scratches. Microfibre cloth is manufactured with fibres between 100 and 1000 times finer than traditionally made cloths. Microfibre cloth works so well because unlike when using cheaper traditional cloths, with a microfibre cloth you really don’t need to use abrasive detergents. Because the mesh is so fine more dust particles can be gathered than is possible with traditional cloth. This reduces the need for the chemicals needed to loosen and remove the same amount of dust as a traditional cleaning cloth would.
You need only a little water with microfibre cloth to loosen the most stubborn dirt particles from the surface. Apply a fine mist of water and a microfibre wipe after a quick gentle wash with a cotton cloth and good quality car wash detergent and you will produce an excellent result. Avoid using an abrasive detergent like dish-washing liquid and use the correct car wash instead. Using dish-washing fluid – and many car owners do – is as bad as using petrol as a cleaner. The paint will start fading and will continue until the pristine shine has been lost forever. Don’t allow small cracks, chips or dents to get worse; repair them immediately. This is to reduce the possibility of rust forming. Try not to use cheap poor quality car shampoos, but use instead one of the many high polymer premier products that are available. You almost always get what you pay for in the automotive industry.
Avoid polishing your car in direct sunlight. Wax will be baked onto your paintwork by sunlight and will not therefore help in the cleaning process. Avoid polishing in direct sunlight because you will be left with a streaky unprofessional finish. Use good high quality polish to wax your car. If the paint is oxidized, you will want to remove it first with a high quality polish or rubbing compound designed for this purpose. After rubbing off the oxidized layer of paint by means of the tiny particles in the rubbing compound polish, a fresh bright layer ready for polish will be revealed. Experts know more about rubbing compounds than you do, so seek their advice before you decide which to buy. Your paintwork will be damaged if you use the wrong compound.
Always make sure that your vehicle is protected by a dust cover during the night. To prevent the paintwork being scratched make sure you use a dust cover made from a soft material. The reason for the paint scratching is actually tiny dust particles being rubbed against your car’s paintwork, so the softer its material the better. Any bird or bat droppings should be removed as soon as you get back from a trip. You will also want to remove tar, dead bugs, leaves, sap and any other debris on your return. Because tree sap can be very damaging to a car’s paintwork, you should park under a roof whenever you can. You can use a quality remover product for this purpose that does not have a high acidic content.
Since rust will develop if any moisture remains you must make sure that the car is thoroughly dried after it’s been washed after a journey. Waste no time in getting rid of any petrol spills, mud, and dust. The salt put on roads – especially in Europe – to prevent the formation of ice, causes rust to develop underneath cars. If you have driven in these conditions, you should ensure that you have thoroughly washed the underside of your car. Any moisture in a carpet can cause metal and carpet rot, so if you’ve been in the car with wet shoes, you must dry all carpets after your journey. You must take immediate action if your car begins to smell damp. After washing, all traces of moisture must be removed from such places as under the bonnet, boot, sills, in corners, and around rubber seals.
Owning a classic car can be a rewarding experience. You have to baby your classic car to keep it in mint condition. You are so proud of this classic car that there will be no limit upon the time you’ll spend caring for it.